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The Handmaiden

Park Chan-wook
South Korea 2016 / 144’

The poet of cruelty, the virtuoso of violence, the maker of a vengeance trilogy with Old Boy at the helm, Park Chan-wook is back and this time is using a Sarah Waters novel as the basis for his film. The Handmaiden is a loose adaptation of the Welsh writer's best-selling novel Fingersmith. The director moves the action to Korea in the 1930s. A low-born thief decides to trick a rich Japanese aristocrat into falling in love with her in order to steal her assets. In order to do this, she places a con-artist-the eponymous handmaiden-in her employ. However, the relationship between the two women intensifies. Seen from different perspectives, the intrigue changes radically from minute to minute. The Korean director creates a criminal love story in which nothing is clear. The Handmaiden is a story about a love triangle, desire, sexual fantasies, and sophisticated revenge. Park Chan-wook makes references to psychoanalysis and works from both Japanese and European culture to create a picture of repressed sexuality that is anything but obvious. At the same time, he does nothing to give up his signature violence.

Krzysztof Kwiatkowski

Park Chan-wook

Park Chan-wook is a Korean director and screenwriter. He studied Philosophy at the University of Sogan. He began directing after climbing the film-career ladder. He was an on-set assistant and dealt with distribution before finally making his debut as a 29-year-old with The Moon Is... The Sun's Dream in 1992. He plays with genres and archetypes in his films, while also specializing in cinematic cruelty. He directed a famous vengeance trilogy that included Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, and Lady Vengeance. In Hollywood, he made Stoker starring Mia Wasikowska and Nicole Kidman.

Selected filmography

1992 Daleun... haega kkuneun kkum / The Moon Is... the Sun's Dream

2002 Pan Zemsta / Boksuneun naui geot / Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

2003 Oldboy / Oldeuboi

2005 Pani Zemsta / Chinjeolhan geumjassi / Lady Vengeance

2006 Jestem cyborgiem i to jest ok / Ssa-i-bo-geu-ji-man-gwen-chan-a / I'm a Cyborg, but That's OK

2013 Stoker

2016 Służąca / Agassi / The Handmaiden

Cast & Crew

director Park Chan-wook
screenplay Chung Seo-kyung, Park Chan-wook
cinematography Chung Chung-hoon
editing Kim Sang-bum, Kim Jae-bum
music Cho Young-wuk
cast Kim Min-hee, Kim Tae-ri, Ha Jung-woo, Cho Jin-woong, Kim Hae-sook, Moon So-ri
producer Park Chan-wook, Syd Lim
production Moho Film, Yong Film
Polish distributor Gutek Film
language Korean, Japanese
colouration colour